“Icaro” is competent, classic, hip hop; duo NV and Cise Greeny choose a battle-hardened niche and sew themselves into it.
It takes a few minutes – around six and a half – for Cise Greeny and NV’s new project “Icaro” to get moving. Though it embraces the well tested aesthetic of East Coast hip hop, “Icaro” doesn’t make itself distinct right away. Opening tracks “Swarm (Intro)” and “Rainy Day” build gradual momentum and the first half of “Mr. Good Jacket” foreshadows the more ballistic verses to come, leading into the album’s only single, “Not Even”. Greeny and NV lock into some kind of symmetry that’s not quite the omniscient synergy of a true double act – they are a partnership, two different ships sailing at even pace. “Not Even” becomes almost economic as it goes on, a system of supply and demand. Cise meets NV’s pensive beat with “facing the odds, it’s odd, you live a facade, but be camouflaged, I’m appalled”, and where his simile laced writing begins to spiral guest emcee Starker takes the mic. It’s unconventional to not open the album with such a display of force.
In a strange twist it’s really NV who seems to narrate “Icaro”, despite not appearing vocally. The album takes its name from the Quechua term “ikaro”, meaning “magic song”, and this is represented by knowing use of audio effects and judicious sample choice; each of the album’s beats represents a spiritual mist as well as it does the thick New York smog. “Soul Hunter” epitomises this, vocal passages discuss synesthesia over bird-like alarms and echoing pan flutes. Amongst this, Greeny lets his pen game fly. “Every trial and tribulation helped evolve me, I calmly stated I stay chiseled, you aim fickle, I flame riddles” is the type of lyrical knot found all over the record, and as a rapper Cise is confident enough to hit every syllable with controlled aggression. His limits are felt in the absence of lyrical breathing room; “Apocalyptic” handles this well, with pauses after nearly each line, but there’s still a little balancing to do.
“Icaro” spans twenty-four minutes, with a second half that really knows its pace. “Monikers”, the eighth track, is the darkest the album gets, with gritty drum loops, rumbling pianos, and a proficient performance from the project’s vocalist, captured and mixed with granularity. “Icaro” nails its presentation. NV nails production. Greeny nails his writing. Yet the lingering feeling is that these two are trading with one another, rather than working for one another. Cise Greeny and NV sound good in an agreement, but would sound fantastic as an alliance.
Listen to “Icaro” here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)